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The old and new

Side-by-side comparison of the San Francisco 49ers’ new home in Santa Clara versus the one they left behind in San Francisco:
Candlestick Park; Levi's Stadium
Year opened: 1960; 2014
Cost to build: $32 million; $1.3 billion
Seating capacity: 69,900; 68,500*
Suites: 94; 176
Stadium square footage: 985,000; 1,850,000
Average concourse width (feet): 19; 63
Scoreboard square footage: 1,296; 19,000
Elevators: 4; 25
Escalators: 6; 38
Toilets: 885; 1,135
Parking spaces: 18,000; about 30,000
*With room to expand
Source: San Francisco 49ers 2014 Media Guide

Tale of three stadiums

Kezar Stadium
Opened in 1925 in southeast corner of Golden Gate Park; renovated 1989-90
Cost $300,000 ($4 million in 2014 dollars)
Seating capacity nearly 60,000
Founding home of San Francisco 49ers in 1946; team moved to Candlestick Park in 1971.
In their finale at Kezar, the 49ers lost the 1970 NFC Championship Game to the Dallas Cowboys, 17–10, on Jan. 3, 1971, and fans set to tearing the stadium apart looking for souvenirs or with mayhem on their minds.

Candlestick Park
Opened in 1960 as the home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team.
Cost $15 million ($120 million in current dollars)
Seating capacity nearly 70,000
49ers moved into stadium in 1971; played final game Dec. 23, 2013
Hosted eight National Football Conference championship games, four won by Niners, the first in 1982 decided by 'The Catch,' Dwight Clark's touchdown reception from Joe Montana.

Levi's Stadium
Opened in 2014 in Santa Clara, 38 miles south of Candlestick Park
Cost $1.3 billion
Seating capacity 68,500 with ability to expand
First 49ers game Sunday; preseason match against Denver Broncos at 1 p.m.
Features digital, sustainable and gastronomical advances, including a stadium mobile app, rooftop garden for insulation and 32 vegan menu items.

Resembling sun-bleached bones of a colossal whale, the white steel ribs of Levi’s Stadium jut 200 feet skyward from the sidewalk on Tasman Street in Santa Clara, where the San Francisco 49ers will kick off their first home game at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The $1.3 billion house that Jed York built in the heart of Silicon Valley, three blocks from networking giant Cisco Systems headquarters, is 38 miles south of the football team’s aged and abandoned facility, Candlestick Park, on an isolated, windswept point on San Francisco Bay.

What’s inside the new 1.85 million-square-foot football palace —more than five times the size of the Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park — is light years apart from Candlestick, the 54-year-old stadium where the 49ers played ball from 1971 through last year.

With a national Monday Night Football television audience tuned in Dec. 19, 2011, Candlestick suffered two power failures, the second one creating a 30-minute game delay and dimming The City’s image.

Brightening Levi’s Stadium will be a mix of LED and conventional lights, twin scoreboards that total more than 19,000 square feet and 1,162 solar panels generating 515,000 kilowatts of electricity a year, enough to power the Niners’ 10 home games and qualify them as a “net neutral” team.

The new sports and entertainment emporium, already a major Bay Area visitor attraction with a museum and daily tours open to the public, is digitally super-wired; sustainable, with a climate-moderating “green roof” and use of 85 percent recycled water, and gastronomically hip with a spate of vegan and vegetarian offerings, international foods and standards like burgers, oven-fired pizza and nachos.

More than 400 miles of data cable run through the stadium, including 70 miles serving 1,200 Wi-Fi antennas that put every one of the 68,500 seats within 10 feet of a Wi-Fi signal box. Internet bandwidth is 40 gigabytes per second, 40 times more than any known U.S. stadium, the 49ers say.

“I was impressed,” said Kevin Hughes, a former Rohnert Park resident who toured the stadium Thursday with his wife, Pam. “I had a full set of reception bars on my phone,” said Hughes, who used to work in Silicon Valley and now lives near Pomona.

Eyeballing the ground layout from atop the stadium’s Suite Tower, Hughes said he was pleased to see three wide bridges from the parking lots, a big improvement over Candlestick’s lone bridge, a crowd choke point.

Pam Hughes endorsed the Levi’s Stadium mobile app that helps people find their way around the place as well as order food from their seats for express pick-up at a concession stand or in-seat delivery.

“She’d be willing to pay the $5 (delivery fee) not to have to climb over people to get it,” Kevin Hughes said.

Told by their guide Thursday that the app will also identify the restroom with the shortest line, women in the Hughes’ tour group let out a collective murmur of approval. There are 1,135 toilets, 250 more than at Candlestick.

Near the start of the tour, about 40 people settled into the padded, cardinal-red seats in a lower-level club section near the 20-yard line. On the field, a man was laying white stripes on the emerald turf, every one of its Bandera Bermuda blades of grass seemingly in place.

“Uh huh, uh huh, this is good, right here,” said Judith Scott, one of nine women from Milpitas and San Jose who took the tour together. For the price — $350 per game after a $20,000 one-time personal seat license — the seats should be swell. A reporter found the gap between his knees and the next row’s seat backs was minimal.

Inside the Suite Tower, Gwen Johnson corrected one of the women who wondered about the price of a hot dog. “They don’t call them hot dogs here,” she said.

They’re called franks, they cost $6.25 and they’re naturally smoked, nitrate-, hormone- and antibiotic-free, steamed in a broth of local tomatoes and served on a custom-made bun from Le Boulanger. They’re among more than 180 menu choices, including more vegetarian and vegan (32) items than any other National Football League stadium, all prepared by an in-house entity called Centerplate and offered at more than 800 points of sale.

A bar area on the 50-yard line offers 42 varieties of beer, including a dozen local craft brews, and two California keg wines on tap.

But for all the stadium’s digital, edible and environmental assets, many of the people bound for Sunday’s game, or any other game, are worried about a more pedestrian matter: Gridlock.

Levi’s Stadium laid an egg on its test run, a Major League Soccer game that drew about 49,000 spectators on the evening of Aug. 2. Chronicle columnist Ann Killion said she was marooned on Tasman Street, needing an hour to move one mile. Light rail service was nightmarish and parking schemes muddled. Fred Vasquez of Windsor said there were no directions for the way out of overflow parking on a golf course.

Vasquez said he and his wife, Yolanda, longtime season ticket holders, would set out by 6:30 a.m. Sunday to make sure they beat the rush.

The 49ers have taken steps to avoid a repeat of the chaos by implementing their full traffic and transit plan, which was not deployed two weeks ago, spokesman Roger Hacker said. There will be more light rail trains and a “full complement” of 25,000 parking spaces for a sellout crowd of more than 68,500 — about equal to the population of Rohnert Park and Windsor combined.

Hacker said the team “saw areas of (needed) improvement,” such as more signs and modified lane use. As fans get more accustomed to the new territory, traffic and transit flow will improve over the first two years, he said. “It’s a learning process for everyone,” Hacker said.

Candlestick Park, meanwhile, closed Thursday night with a traffic jam so bad that Paul McCartney waited for an hour to go on stage, and some fans never got in. One media reports called it a “fitting farewell” to the old stadium that forced fans into a challenging exit from Highway 101 onto narrow neighborhood streets.

Back at Levi’s Stadium on Thursday, the tour focused on high-end facilities in the 9,000-seat club section, which is not for the financially faint, with personal seat licenses — a one-time fee — up to $80,000. The cost on an installment plan, covering that fee and game tickets, comes to nearly $15,000 a year.

But money buys privilege at the ballpark, including access to six club spaces, which are also available as rentals for weddings and corporate parties. The ceiling of the cavernous United Club, covered with a perforated gray material, is meant to resemble San Francisco’s famous fog.

“Fifteen dollars for a glass of wine,” one of the nine women told her friends.

On the Verizon Press Level of the Suite Tower, open only to the media on game days, Sue Hunter of Sunnyvale paused to capture a smart phone photo of a wall decoration showing a youthful Joe Montana at a press conference prior to the 1982 Super Bowl.

“That’s adorable,” she said.

Montana, then 25, was on the verge of winning the first of four Super Bowls and three Super Bowl most valuable player awards.

Up on the roof of the Suite Tower, Hunter and her friend, Deborah Coryell — a distant relative of former San Diego Chargers coach Don Coryell — admired the 27,000-square-foot “green roof,” planted with 16 species of native vegetation that helps insulate the building.

The women are Niners fans, with “high hopes” of getting into the stadium for a game some day.

“We’ll cheer from a bar, or my living room,” Hunter said, referring to Sunday’s game.

Dropping down to field level, the tour stopped into the BNY Mellon Club West, one of three places in the stadium “where you can leave your wallet at home,” the tour guide said. Food and drink, prepared inside the club, is included with the appropriate club seat. And if you’re lucky, the opposing team may rush through the room onto the field at the 50-yard line.

That’s the “tentative plan,” the guide said, although the team may opt to come on and off the field through a separate tunnel.

In any case, BNY Mellon Club members — there’s a club on each side of the stadium — may step onto the field and watch the action, providing they can see over the oversized athletes in front of them.

Down a hallway, the tour stopped into the visiting team’s locker room, which seemed nice with 10-foot ceilings. The Niners locker room, on the other side of the field, has 20-foot ceilings.

Barbara Boone, one of the nine-woman group, critiqued the room’s color scheme, with mocha lockers and a brown, black and gray-mix carpet.

“It’s dreary,” she said. “Make ‘em depressed so they’ll lose.” Then she brightened to the concept.

“This is good,” Boone said. “Beat ‘em before they get onto the field.”

A red digital timer on the wall ticks off the hours and minutes before the team heads out to meet the San Francisco 49ers.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

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